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Hollow City: The Siege of San Francisco and the Crisis of American Urbanism Paperback – September 17, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 188 pages
  • Publisher: Verso (September 17, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1859843638
  • ISBN-13: 978-1859843635
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 7.4 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,074,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"San Francisco has been for most of its 150-year existence both a refuge and an anomaly. Soon it will be neither. Gentrification is transforming the city by driving out the poor... [and] those who have chosen to give their lives over to unlucrative pursuits such as art, activism, social experimentation, and social service." So begins this impassioned cry to save the soul of Baghdad by the Bay (and any American cities under siege by ill-planned overdevelopment). A San Francisco resident who lives in a rent-controlled apartment, Solnit (Wanderlust: A History of Walking) presents a lively mix of research, personal anecdotes, photos and art to show how the industrious development of high-end condos, hotel/office space and dot-com businesses over the past decade has increased the city's economic base at the expense of many of its long-term residents, not to mention its character. Between 1996 and 1997, rental prices went up 37%; last year, some neighborhoods faced a 20% increase within six months. Evictions happen at the rate of five per day, and "70% of those evicted leave the city," leading to the attrition not only of the poor but of the middle class, as well as independent and small businesses. Charting the history of the vibrant San Francisco arts and activist scenesDfrom the early days of literary bohemia in the 1870s to the 1950s beatniks to the famed political theater of the San Francisco Mime TroupeDSolnit methodically shows how difficult it will be for them to remain viable under the city's new managers. Passionate, potent and to the point, Solnit's polemic embodies American political and social writing at its best. Readers who share her outlook will find it richly satisfying. (Jan.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From The New Yorker

The Internet boom transformed San Francisco into a suburb of Silicon Valley, and the resulting housing squeeze and accelerated gentrification of low-income neighborhoods created a cultural crisis. Schwartzenberg's images survey more than thirty years of upheaval in the name of "urban renewal," and Solnit's text brings urgency to the question of whether a place in which artists, activists, and members of diverse races and classes can no longer afford to live is fated to become "a city of presentation without creation."
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

More About the Author

Writer, historian, and activist Rebecca Solnit is the author of sixteen books about environment, landscape, community, art, politics, hope, and memory, including two atlases, of San Francisco in 2010 and New Orleans in 2013; this year's Men Explain Things to Me; last year's The Faraway Nearby; A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster; A Field Guide to Getting Lost; Wanderlust: A History of Walking; and River of Shadows, Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West (for which she received a Guggenheim, the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism, and the Lannan Literary Award). A product of the California public education system from kindergarten to graduate school, she is a contributing editor to Harper's and frequent contributor to the political site Tomdispatch.com.

She encourages you to shop at Indiebound, your local independent bookstore, Powells.com, Barnes & Noble online and kind of has some large problems with how Amazon operates these days. Though she's glad if you're buying her books however.....

Customer Reviews

2.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By C. Szabla on May 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Although Rebecca Solnit writes with a deliberate and sometimes myopic agenda, her style is extraordinarily effective in evoking sympathy. It is elegaic in nature and the entire book reads as a eulogy, a fact reinforced by the shuttered structures and funeral processions presented in Schwatzenberg's photo essays. The digressions into such realms as the origins of Bohemia don't seem irrelevant or excessive but merely an extension of the beauty of the writing and presentation.
Although the issue has become less pressing with the collapse of the fervor of the internet economy, it should be noted the type of mass evictions in favour of live/work lofts is still a common occurrence in San Francisco, and that housing is still beyond the means of many ordinary San Franciscans. Despite the less fervent pace of gentrification, those in the funeral procession presented in the opening pages will not be returning to their homes; the character of their neighbourhood will not be restored.
The work is a mild success. Although somewhat obsolescent, it is still relevant, whether because of its still necessary impressions on the hearts of those who read it, or as a presentation of a historical phenomenon. But furthermore, as a literary work, and as a visual work, it is beautiful both in its prose and photography.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By c. in sf on November 6, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
alas, this is not an outdated book. sf has only become more homogenized since its publication (a topic that is crucial to the book, and covered very well in terms of past creative types who've inhabited sf).

the book's overview of sf history is fascinating, and well-presented. solnit did a thoughful, unbiased job of evaluating the housing crisis in sf and its effect on the creative energy of the city. her metaphors are apt, and overarching points are salient.

a highly recommended read to anyone who cares about san francisco history, or who has bemoaned the exodus of its artistic inhabitants.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Isabeau Doucet on January 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Hollow City is both a panegyric and requiem to San Francisco. Beautifully written and assembeled, it opens up ever relevant debates on gentrification, evictions, changing flows of capital and how a complex biodiversity of native San Francisco labour is being clear-cut and replaced with a the tech industry mono-crop.
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12 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Brad on September 14, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book has an interesting subject and lovely photography. I am sympathetic to the plight of gentrification. However, the tone of this feels as though she were a professional complainer. Neighborhoods change, that is a fact of life. The residents who were displaced in this book were undoubtedly not the same residents from the time it was built. You get the sense that the author feels like everything about every neighborhood is worth saving. It isn't. I'm not going to cry about a neighborhood with less crime. And what solutions are offered? Should one never try to improve a distressed neighborhood, so that no one ever has to move? What sort of building *should* be allowed in a city? Ms. Solnit has some very valid points in this book, but she comes off as anti-change and not really offering anything close to a solution, other than fossilizing San Francisco in the "good old days", whenever that was for her.
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28 of 51 people found the following review helpful By ChefBum on March 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
I was outraged when I read this book... but not in the way you would think.

Published in 2002, this book is already quite dated. Now that it is 2006 and the dotcom boom has become the dotcom bust, this author's hysteria over gentrification and urban renewal in San Francisco-- all blamed on the dotcom phenomenon, mind you-- has been proven to be unfounded. In fact, in relative terms rents are more affordable now than they were back in 2002.

Where to start? This book is simply a long list of gripes and sour grapes about how San Francisco has gotten too expensive for spoiled "bohemians" to live in because they don't want to work. Perhaps most galling is how Solnit puts urban "artists" at the top of her self-righteous hierarchy of those who "deserve" to live in the City. Urban professionals are likened to "dirty old men" who follow around the innocent "schoolgirls" who supposedly are the artists.

The crux of the problem is that in her myopic, NIMBY-istic viewpoint, Solnit fails to acknowledge the fact that space in San Francisco has ALWAYS been severely limited. The city itself is only about 49 square miles and it has ALWAYS been expensive... it has always gone through change, sometimes rapid. Manhattan is the center of a worldclass, GREAT city. How does she think all of those tall skyscrapers got there? When Solnit mourns the loss of an unused, empty lot to development, I have to laugh.

You will find that the author considers herself a "radical" and associates with the originator of "Critical Mass", a regular, planned, and deliberate snarling of local traffic by disgruntled people on bikes.
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